Archives For conspiracy theories

sleeping cell phone

Correlation does not mean causation. While it can certainly hint at causation, without evidence showing it, correlation is either curious or outright irrelevant. We could plot the increase in the number of skyscrapers across the world next to the rise of global obesity cases and claim that skyscrapers cause obesity, but if we can’t explain how a really tall building would trigger weight gain, all we did was draw two upward sloping lines on an arbitrary chart. And the same thing is happening with the good, ol’ boogeyman of cell phone radiation, which is supposedly giving us all brain tumors. So, were you to take Mother Jones’ word for it, there are almost 200 scientists armed with over 2,000 studies showing cell phone usage causes gliomas, or cancerous tumors in the central nervous system. When you follow the links, you will find a small group of scientists and engineers signing vaguely worded letters accusing corporate fat cats, who care nothing for human lives, of killing us for profit with cell phones, wi-fi, and other microwave signals that have been saturating our atmosphere for the last half century.

Here’s the bottom line. While there have been ever so slight, tortured correlations between cell phone use and gliomas, no credible mechanism to explain how cell phones would cause them has ever been shown, and every study that purports to have observed a causative mechanism, sees it only in a sterile lab, watching exposed cells in petri dishes. If every such experiment was truly applicable to the entire human body, we’d have a cure for every known type of cancer, as well as drugs that would let us live well into our fifth century. Cells outside the protective bubble of skin, clothes, blood, and without the influence of countless other processes in our bodies and outside of them are the weakest, most speculative level of evidence one could try to muster in showing that electromagnetic fields could cause cancer. My hypochondriacal friends, the words in vitro and in vivo sound similar, but in practice, the two are very, very different. We find more cases of cancer every year not because we’re mindlessly poisoning ourselves with zero regard for the consequences, but because we’re getting really good at finding it.

Just like in the not too distant past people worried that traveling at the ungodly, indecent, not at all meant for humans speed of 25 miles per hour in a train would cause lifelong damage, we’re now dealing with those who believe that all these newfangled electronics can’t be good for us if they’re invisible and have the term “radiation” in their official description. They’re terribly afraid, but unable to offer a plausible mechanism for harm, they rebut skeptics with histrionics invoking tobacco industry denialism, anti-corporatism, and full blown conspiracy theories, calling those in doubt communication industry and electronics shills. Now, for full disclosure I should note that I work with telephony in a very limited capacity. My work centers around what to do with VoIP or other communications data, but that would be enough for those blowing up the Mother Jones’ comment section for that article to dismiss me as a paid shill. Should I protest and show my big doubts about their ideas, they will conveniently back away form calling me a shill sent to spread propaganda to declaring that I’m just a naive sap doomed to suffer in the near future.

It’s infuriating really. Yes, yes, I get it goddamn it, Big Tobacco lied after science ruled that their product was killing their customers and spent billions trying to improve their public image. But in that case, the scientists demonstrated irrefutable in vivo proof of the crippling effects of nicotine and cigarette tar on lab animals, identifying dozens of chemical culprits and how they damaged healthy tissues to trigger tumor growth. Sleazy lawyers were trying to stem a tsunami of quality studies and cold, hard numbers, not vague speculative ideas about how maybe cigarettes can cause cancer while lab studies on rats and mice failed to turn up anything at all. A preemptive comparison of the two does not suggest the rhetorical sophistication of the person doing such comparisons, but intellectual laziness and utter ignorance of how science actually works, and it serves only to clear the debate of any fact or opinion with which this conspiracy theorist doesn’t agree. It’s a great way to build an echo chamber, but a lousy way to make decisions about the quality and validity of what the media sells you. It is, after all, worried about hits, not facts.

But hold on, why would someone latch into the idea that cell phones and GMOs cause cancer, and there’s some shadowy cabal of evil corporations who want to kill us all either for the benefit of the New World Order or their bank accounts, and refuse to let this notion go like a drowning man who can’t swim clinging to a life raft in the open ocean, with sharks circling under his feet? Consider that you have a 33% chance of having cancer in your lifetime, and our modern, more sedentary lifestyles will hurt your health long before that. We can blame genetics, the fact that getting old sucks and we don’t have a cure for aging, and that there is no perfect way to cheat nature and avoid degenerative diseases completely, that we can only stave them off. Or we can find very human villains who we can overthrow, or at least plot against, responsible for all this as they contemplate killing us for fun and profit with deadly cell phones, toxic food, and poisonous drugs that kill us faster to aid their nefarious goals. We can’t fight nature, but we can fight them, and so we will. Even if they aren’t real, but projections of our fear or mortality and the inability to control our fate into equally fallible collections of humans who sometimes do bad things.

buried skull

When the world momentarily became a better place through bin Laden’s removal from it, there was an instant surge of “deathers,” conspiracy theorists convinced that there was no raid or the whole thing was a sham, weaving a New World Order tale for every possible scenario. Indulged by the media looking for views and bursting comment sections, they went quiet after al Qaeda’s generals themselves confirmed that indeed, their leader was dead and gone. Or, at least, quiet in the public eye. But now there’s a new bin Laden conspiracy theory in town from a legendary investigative reporter who says that the raid in Pakistan was indeed a sham, and instead of the intelligence community tracking down a terrorist mastermind and dispatching special operators to take him out in a daring raid, the CIA and SOCOM was just doing Pakistan’s dirty work while stuffing someone’s wallet to the tune of $25 million. In trying to answer the very real mystery of how Pakistan could allow the most wanted man on earth to set up shop next to their West Point, he ended up with a tall tale that belongs on InfoWars rather than in a real newspaper.

Many technicalities of Hersh’s story have already been picked apart by numerous writers, so I’ll limit myself to solely the showstoppers here. First off is the idea that Pakistan not only knew bin Laden was hiding out next to their top military facility, they put him there under house arrest for future use as a pawn in negotiations with the U.S. about military aid. This actually makes sense because the ISI is the kind of organization that would think that this would be a great idea, but it quickly stops making it when you realize that they would’ve held him for five years. A deal could have been made within months if not weeks because terrorists do not age like fine wine and art. Bin Laden was worth even more when al Qaeda affiliates were raising hell in Iraq and he hadn’t yet become a far off leader writing vague strategy memos. To sit on an asset like this when the Bush Administration would’ve surely paid handsomely for his head would be asinine.

The second problem is the claim that the ISI went along with a greedy informant who waltzed in from the street and asked American diplomats for the bounty on bin Laden’s head. Whether he went rogue or sent by the intelligence agency guarding bin Laden, why would Pakistan follow? Every passionate rebuttal of a Hersh debunking rests on the idea that the ISI wouldn’t give up a man who many Pakistanis actually see as a hero, including some fundamentalist higher ups in the so-called Pakistani deep state, the shadowy cabal of generals, tycoons, and politicians who hold real power in the country. Then why would they help Americans execute a raid? Why allow them to even get close to bin Laden rather than hide him or just discredit the informant? Which one is it? Pakistan wanted to trade bin Laden for cash and guns, or protect him as a hero? The two are mutually exclusive. Did the ISI suddenly decide that after holding on to him through the years of violence and turmoil on their borders and within he just wasn’t worth it?

But changing their mind about bin Laden’s upkeep has to be eliminated as an option due to the third big problem with Hersh’s tale, the idea that Saudi Arabia paid to house him in Pakistan. It’s only a slightly less ridiculous proposition than the idea that it was the Americans who footed the bill because anyone who knows anything about bin Laden is aware that the House of Saud was very interested in having him killed. Suggesting otherwise falls into the “well, Arabs are all more or less the same, right?” category of geopolitical reasoning. Saudis didn’t mind him too much as long as he picked fights with Americans, but they drew the line at attacking their kingdom. All of his Saudi benefactors and friends were actually dealing with him illegally because his citizenship was revoked and his assets frozen after he tried to orchestrate a revolt against the royal family for allowing American bases on Saudi soil. Why would the House of Saud ever pay to imprison someone they wanted dead and blamed for terrorist attacks on hotels and oil refineries?

While it’s true that Saudi Arabia funds terrorists around the world, the fuller, darker story, is that this is how they deal with homegrown homicidal extremists; they simply export them to a distant land, fighting wars that don’t need to be fought funded by countries that don’t want to fight them but know that the minute they stop giving their bloodthirsty maniacs something to do, they’ll be handling a domestic crisis of epic proportions. So why didn’t Pakistan adopt the strategy which would’ve made them look either cunning or completely un-involved and sent bin Laden off into some distant province of Afghanistan to die or get killed if they wanted to get rid of him? It’s so much more likely that there were ISI people aware of his presence, who saw him as a hero and didn’t want him to die, and simply kept their mouths shut, directing suspicious minds to look for him elsewhere. Then, when they woke up one morning to find that a SEAL team killed him, that was the end of that as far as they were concerned. They did their best to protect him, but they lacked the virtually unlimited resources of a superpower with a globe spanning military.

As said before, there are dozens of little details that give us reason to doubt pretty much every other word that Hersh wrote and relying on all anonymous sources makes his story pretty much impossible to verify. If you believe that special operators refer to what they do as “murder” and throw bodies of long sought foes out of choppers for no reason, that the House of Saud won’t just off their enemies, that it somehow benefited either Saudi Arabia or Pakistan to keep the old terrorist alive while his minions wreaked havoc across the region, and that despite photos of an honest to goodness firefight and wreckage at the compound, the SEALs actually just walked in, shot an already almost dead man in a wheelchair to later dump his body mid-flight, and left, you probably won’t agree with a single critique of Hersh’s “expose.” And you’ll likely resort to the oft repeated defense of his writing: “you’re just asking questions about why they did something, not showing that Hersh is wrong!” But actually I am. People can be illogical, but generally, when we come to politics on the world stage, people follow their best interests and all my questions really ask is why none of their players he invokes, other than the U.S., acted in their best interests.

Finally, here’s the most important detail to consider. Hersh had two explosive reports that gave him his legendary reputation, the story on the My Lai massacre, and the investigation into how prisoners were being abused at Abu Grahib. Much of the rest of his journalistic career, though, was spent trying to find a contrarian narrative that would give him a second My Lai bombshell, and he relied on con men, cranks, and dictators with every incentive to lie to him as his primary sources, either regurgitating conspiracy theories, or inventing a new one on the spot when he felt he needed to up the ante. And that’s the sad truth about him. He started as an investigative journalist looking for the truth, then having gotten a taste of success, became a pundit with his expected narrative. Much like Glenn Beck will see a communist conspiracy in everything and in every current event Alex Jones finds the Illuminati, Hersh will keep telling you that America is a bumbling, barely competent empire with outsize ambitions. The truth is that America does use plenty of military and financial muscle to maintain its global hegemony, but every country plays the same game as well. But that truth is messy, too messy for Hersh. He wants a villain, a very big and easy target for our outrage so he can pull in enough attention to justify his fee…

s.o. operator

When you’re in LA, heading into the Valley, you’d likely be following Ventura Blvd. or the 101 for some time until you find the I405, which passes right next to the Sherman Oaks Galleria. There, if at that intersection you were to turn and head south on Sepulveda, just one block down, you’d see the front door to the recording studio of Coast To Coast AM Radio, the beacon of paranoia and conspiracy theories that keep Alex Jones flush with cash, and help listeners indulge in their fantasies of fighting the New World Order or imagining the wicked sex lives of those working to advance it in great detail. Currently, the biggest thing now emanating from it is one of the most boneheaded conspiracy theories to see the light of day: Jade Helm. If you were to listen to the conspiracy’s proponents, the puppet masters secretly pulling the world’s strings are staging an exercise on imposing martial law on the United States. After announcing this exercise for public awareness and releasing maps of where the exercises will be held instead of, you know, going out there and just imposing said martial order, or even practicing in complete secrecy.

Remember the mission to kill Osama bin Laden and how no one knew it will happen until there was an announcement in the news that the mission was carried out? Even the soldiers whose days were spent practicing for it had to guess who they were going after until the last minute. If you believe the “deathers” that there was either no such as bin Laden or that he was just a CIA operative, even then the announcement seemed like it came out of nowhere. This is why huge, sensitive military operations are classified. You need an element of surprise. Why is the military broadcasting its takeover of the Southwest when it could just do it within a few days? It has just about all the assets it needs already in place. Likewise, martial law is really only necessary in a situation when you fear massive anti-government unrest, which unlike hyperventilating partisan blowhards and Chicken Littles of AM radio will tell you, isn’t exactly brewing in the U.S. So what would be the point of forcibly pacifying an already peaceful, friendly population?

But despite the complete lack of sense, logic, and reason behind the Jade Helm theory, there’s been an effort by a few token contrarians to somehow justify a kernel of legitimacy to a concern of a government takeover of a population that’s actively participating in said government with no sensible reason not borrowed from conspiracy klaxons. Instead of approaching this conspiracy for what it is, these writers are trying to weave in the specter of police militarization, which while an important and perfectly legitimate concern in its own right is totally inapplicable here. I’m not sure if they’re doing it for the hits, so the right keywords will show up during a search on Google News according to their editors, or because they’re just looking for a transition to their new best read topic, but we end up with with the following exonerations of pathological paranoia

We live at a time when the Pentagon distributes surplus military equipment to small-town police forces; when cops present themselves to the public as soldiers fighting a war; when officials respond to unrest in Ferguson and Baltimore with curfews and … illiberal, heavy-handed tactics. It’s not crazy to complain about militarization. The conspiratorial version of the complaint literalizes it: A genuine shift in how people are policed becomes a plot to impose martial rule.

Notice how the complaints are about the militarization of police and the deafness of judges and courts to local abuses. But the military is not the police. It doesn’t kill people during traffic stops, it doesn’t patrol the streets, it doesn’t handle riots, and its job is to deter and kill the enemies of the country it serves. We can argue how much of Jade Helm should be classified or the level of detail SOCOM should provide about how it spends its cash and trains its operators, but the fact of the matter is that special forces do our most classified and sensitive missions, so if there are any places in the military budget that are opaque by necessity, it has a good case for being one such spot. Talking about what it does too much can give enemy groups insights into tactics and weapons, meaning already difficult operations will become even harder to pull off. No, we don’t have to trust the government about everything it says, but we should at least think through what we distrust most and pick reasonable objections to reasonable issues, not just scream that the sky is falling when Alex Jones and his ilk need a boost in viewership and cash flow.

coffee owl

Mornings are awful. Always have been, always will be, rousing you out of bed, interrupting your sleep in unhealthy ways, rushing you to work at ungodly hours during which you must navigate e-mails and other minutia while your mind shakes itself awake to do real tasks. Unless, you do what most people around you do and reach for the nearest legal stimulant to brush off all those early morning cobwebs. I’m talking about coffee, one of the most frequently consumed drugs in the world, bringing in over $30 billion in revenues from the 2.25 billion cups of coffee drank by people around the world each day, and supporting a network employing over 25 million. And as with every drug, there’s a natural dependency. Forgoing it means anxiety, shakes, cold sweats, headaches, irritability, fatigue, and a general foggy haze in which you struggle to operate. It’s a much less intense version of pretty much any other kind of “dope sick” addicts get when they’re unable to secure their fix. Yet, it’s sold openly, to anyone and everyone, at a profit.

What does that have to do with mornings though? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. Think for just a moment why you have to go to work so early, especially when you’re not in the logistics, travel, or maintenance business where one could make the case for early mornings or working through the night. Why do you have to be in the office by 8 am or 9 am along with everyone? If you need your coffee fix to no longer feel like a zombie, that’s why. Mornings were invented for one, simple reason. To get you addicted to coffee. Industry shills known as “morning people,” a code obviously denoting the fiction of someone actually enjoying being forcibly woken up at the separation of the gluteal muscles of dawn, have convinced much of the developed world to set work schedules in a way that will maximize their boss’ ability to get you hooked on coffee, then encourage you to be stuck in a never-ending cycle of sleep deprivation to keep you coming for another fix, day in, day out, even when you can sleep in and don’t have to work.

And Big Coffee and its members like Starbucks, Petes, and Coffee Bean, are not the only ones making a profit off your addiction. They’ve allied themselves with Big Ag’s breakfast industry to sell you cereals, granola bars, yogurt, and other “breakfast food” as it’s denoted. Of course it’s not all there is to it. You see, many fast food chains and coffee stores sell breakfast foods that are highly caloric, containing significant amounts of saturated fat and sugar, which coupled with the sedentary lifestyle enforced by many workplaces often leads to weight gain, and that weight gain interferes with sleeping patterns that make people less tired. Basically, we’re looking at an elaborate, vicious cycle of addiction for corporate profit. We need to wake up to the injustice of mornings and petition Big Coffee to stop pushing companies to open early, as well as removing the addictive chemical caffeine from the vast majority of their offerings still containing it in doses as high as 436 grams. I will be putting together an official letter writing campaign and a petition calling for the end of our forced caffeine addiction on Change.org in the next few days.

Likewise, yours truly isn’t sitting back and just counting on these corrupt corporate behemoths, many with the same market caps and annual profits as Monsanto to roll over, and is in the final stages of a partnership with several vendors to offer a new, natural energy drink alternative for those who must start their day early. If we can’t hit Big Coffee in the media, we need to hit it in the only place it really cares about: the wallet. You wouldn’t be just buying an energy drink that helps you stay alert and awake, you’d be giving these corporate drug pushers the finger to say loudly and proudly that you don’t need their damn coffee and “breakfast food,” you can see all their tricks from a mile away, and you’re smarter than to just let them ensnare you. Even better, should you have any of those “reward cards” that encourage you to be a good little addict and come back for a discount on your next fix, why not make a video of you cutting such a card, or creatively destroying it in some pother way, upload it, then link to it in your entry in the petition when it will be up and running? I’m ready to take on mornings. Who’s with me?

barefoot

Conspiracy theories about mind control are nothing new. In fact, I’ve lost count how many books from Jim Marrs and David Icke purport some sort of mind control beam, or wave, or program by the nefarious Illuminati altering our consciousness so we become mere puppets to the will of an evil intelligence. And considering how many of them are out there, they’re getting harder to sell, even to an audience primed to hear more stories about sinister mind control experiments which sound pulled right form the pages of the Illuminatus! Trilogy, so if you’re a conspiracy theorist with a book to sell, you have to spice it up somehow, and sex slavery seems to be emerging as the new trend in getting people’s attention. A good example is a new book from the Conspiracy Journal which builds itself on the story of Cathy O’Brien, a woman who claimed that she was a victim of the CIA’s more sinister MKULTRA subproject codenamed Monarch in a Satanic Panic era potboiler called Trance Formation of America. Yes dear readers, sex can sell anything…

Now, where do we begin? When you open an online version of O’Brien’s book, you’ll be quickly hammered by countless attempts to prove that a) mind control exists, b) no one talks about it to hide how effective it is from you, thus engaging in a form of mind control, and c) because there are reams of paperwork showing that the CIA experimented with mind control, it means we have to believe O’Brien and her stories of CIA sex slaves created for the pleasure of malevolent big wigs whose cooperation America wanted to secure during the Cold War. Oy. Here’s the problem in this line of reasoning. The kernel of truth here is that the CIA did attempt to experiment with all sorts of mind control ideas to teach its spies, but just about all of them were spectacular failures so one of the big reasons why so many were kept hush hush is because they flatly didn’t work and the agency didn’t want anyone to know how badly they were struggling with anything other than drugging a person and very unevenly interrogating him or her in an intoxicated state.

But instead of showing how mind control can work, O’Brien simply claims that absence of a well understood or recognized form of mind control means that it must exist, then goes on to equate tightly controlled state propaganda with mind control. That doesn’t really work. Mind control has the connotation that there’s a device, or a chemical cocktail that will make you do the bidding of whoever has it. Propaganda is basically brainwashing through tight control of information. That’s not the same thing, and it relies on a totalitarian regime that could control everything its citizens see and hear, a regime like North Korea. And even there the total control breaks down when an errant signal gets picked up on the radio or an outlawed internet connection is established that lets the regime’s prisoner-citizens see into the outside world. Having lived in a real authoritarian state, I can tell you that America today is far too permissive to exercise that kind of “mind control by disinformation,” unless you can prove that the entire Western world is being brainwashed, a claim that requires a very significant burden of proof and for some political miracles to occur.

And this is where the mind controlled CIA/Illuminati/Builderberg sex slaves come in. They are the reward for those rich, famous, and powerful enough to advance the New World Order’s agenda, though one wonders since when the rich and powerful, for whom money is no object, became so easily bribed with sex. They can easily charm/buy their way into women’s panties as shown by countless scandals of exactly that happening. Even more bizarre to me is that stories of female sexual slaves are plentiful while virtually nothing exists on male sex slaves. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Surely a global network of thousands of power players must feature straight women with an appetite for lithe young men, or homosexual fatcats. So why do we hear nothing at all about them? Of course there’s more. O’Brien’s vivid recollections of abuse at the hands of all sorts of foreign diplomats, power brokers, and Satanic cultists — oh we’ll be back to that, don’t you worry for a second that we won’t — came to her through hypnosis, like the memories of alien abductees though a process we’ve seen before, a process which has no scientific basis.

So in the end, what we have is a mix of Satanic Panic ritual sexual abuse, misuse of hypnosis on highly suggestible subjects, and conspiracy theories borrowing from the Taxil Hoax. And that’s a perfect mix in the 1990s, when the tabloids are on fire with the idea of Satanic subliminal music, and wild claims of countless children being tortured and future Miss Teen Americas raped in the catacombs of cultists acting on behalf of the Devil, and greedy con men are writing confessions of their supposed guilt in the nasty undertaking. Isn’t it odd that O’Brien’s tale fits just oh so very perfectly with the predominant money making conspiracy literature of the time, literature quickly shown to be either untrustworthy or outright made up and sold as real accounts? And shouldn’t we wonder why perfectly these calibrated salacious rumors and supposed real tales of power, sex, magic, and aliens should be trusted when they’re repackaged to sell to us a second time, a few decades after they were last popular? Human trafficking like the type shown in Taken is bad enough without money-making boogeymen like the Repotoids, CIA, and the Illuminati. Maybe we should keep them out of a very real and very dire problem? Just a thought…

noodly_horror_600

While there have been numerous studies on the psychology of conspiracy theorists, people to whom everything is a conspiracy by the powers that be to push a secret agenda, and who keep countering criticisms of their theories by invoking negative evidence and malfeasance at higher and higher levels, most of them focused on how they shape their worldview and why. Few cover the apparent obsessive nature of the true believers of a conspiracy theory who go so far in the name of "finding the truth" that they lose all perspective of what they’re doing and why they get static from those they try to interrogate. For example, the Sandy Hook Truthers, who insist that the school shooting in New England is some sort of secret government plot, are demanding the death certificates of the murdered children and hysterically hyperventilated when the coroner’s office contemplated telling them to go away and wasting their time with their "theories."

Basically, the theorists’ argument goes like this. They didn’t see any photos of the dead kids or their bodies in body bags, therefore it’s probable that their parents were really actors and there were no kids actually shot that day. If they were, why are there no pictures and videos of their little corpses? Let’s see, how about because while our news media has very little shame, they’re still cognizant that it’s in such revoltingly poor taste to bombard us with pictures of dead children covered in blood and bullet wounds that there would be riots outside their offices? And why is a coroner thinking twice about giving them death certificates? Because he knows that they’ll only be twisted to serve the conspiracy theorists’ agenda. Somebody on Prison Planet, or InfoWars, or ATS, will announce that his girlfriend’s best friend’s boyfriend-in-law twice removed just got his fifth degree black belt in death certificate forensics and totally knows they’re fake. How? It’s what always happens with every document meant to answer conspiracy theorists.

Even if someone were to go as inhumanly far as exhuming the victims’ bodies and doing a full, public DNA analysis broadcast live on the web to confirm that the victims are who we were told they are, some fanatic obsessed with this theories will find a way to claim that the tests were just theater by the Reptoids from Tau Ceti or whatnot. Again, this is what conspiracy theorists do. All evidence that runs counter to their beliefs must be rationalized to still fit into them, made out as some sort of disinformation operation by evil forces, or dismissed as a fraud. You can tell that it will happen with their pseudo-religious approach to their theories: a messianic proclamation of a discovered truth no one wants them to know, with anecdotes, factoids, rumors, and third-hand, if not fourth-hand accounts, presented to the critics to be disproved and held up as dogma that all true believers must follow lest they be labeled a CIA/NSA/Illuminati mole in their midst…

frosted illuminati

All the conspiracy theories around Agenda 21 are just gifts that just never stop giving. If you’ve been reading Weird Things for a while, you know about its roots as a supposed manifesto of an evil, socialist one world government trying to take over the world through environmentalism, and the subsequent paranoia about every single urban planning idea that features words like green and sustainability, with far right conspiracy theorists going out of their way to look for a threat in anything they could possibly tie to Agenda 21 and indulge in their fantasies of martyrdom in the Environmentalist Socialist Illuminati ruled society. The latest freakout mentioning the fluffy nice-to-maybe-think-about list of talking points from 1992 to be sang to the tinfoil choir? The U.N. will destroy your suburbs and make you move into a densely packed city to free up green space. If this sounds like a really far-fetched flight of the rabidly paranoid imagination that came from the rants on Glenn Beck’s version of Coast to Coast Radio, you’re right. It’s exactly what it is.

Here’s what the brouhaha is all about. Today’s urban planners are looking at how to help cities grow efficiently and they hate the suburbs, therefore, they’re suggesting less sprawl, more and better planned modular architecture, and fewer individual family homes as the best way forward for the future. And they have their reasons. Suburbs mean more roads, less farms, more waste, pollution, underutilized infrastructure and all that sprawl only makes the city bigger and frees a lot of parking space. We can certainly point to lower crime and good schools, but these are not functions of suburbs being suburbs. These are functions of taxes from high earners and smart voters who insist that their municipal governments put their hard-earned money to good use or cut the tax rate. When city planners look at cities, they’re not seeing how one’s desire for a plot of land with a single house on it really moves the overall community forward and the decline and fall of many exurbs across the nation shows that they’re not inevitable.

However, the catch is that despite not liking suburbs, city planners have no right to tell you how and where to live so if you find a plot of residential land, you can buy it and build anything you’d like on it. The city may not be happy with everything you might build, but unless you’re doing all sorts of illegal, police complaint generating things, there’s not all that much it can do even if it so badly wants to. Likewise, the U.N. has zero jurisdiction there because if every proposal it posted on the web was somehow binding or enforceable, Russia and the United States would be forced to mine asteroids and the Moon and share everything they find according to a U.N. schedule of who gets what resources around the world (see: The Moon Treaty) but because there’s nothing that can be done to enforce these ideas, following them is strictly optional. So the suburbs won’t go anywhere as long as there are people who’d like to live in them or see few options for raising their families in a more urban setting. They may shrink, but they’re unlikely to vanish, and even then it would be a case of lower demand rather than some sort of edict from above.

Just think about this, what elected government would want to tell people as fiercely individual as Americans where they could live and how? It would be a disaster and more than likely be thrown out as unconstitutional in some way, shape, or form. But then again, very few urban planners will be so radical as to level the suburbs and stick everyone in high rises. Give them a taller, slightly denser populated version of the suburbs with multi-level condominium blocks, parks, and more mixed use areas, and they’ll be happy. And again, as noted above, they have their reasons not to like sprawling McMansions as far as the eye can see, and those reasons do make sense if we consider entire cities rather than only what John Q. Public wants. Just because a document from over two decades ago says that it may be nice for cities to be more eco-friendly and sustainable in the long run, doesn’t mean that urban planners in America turned into mindless zombies from a magical power exuded by the vague bullet points and decided to demolish the nuclear family’s one plot, white picket fence home on the whim of their New World Order masters.

smiley death grafitti

It started almost immediately after Sandy Hook. The reliably shrill alt med ignoramus who hasn’t read about a conspiracy theory he didn’t immediately love, Mike Adams, penned a fiery screed accusing psychoactive drugs of creating mass murderers and using a seemingly long list of very grizzly events to support his point. Since he’s Alex Jones’ best buddy and fills in on the Coast to Coast radio show, the meme has spread like wildfire among conspiracy theorists, and even the pundits of World Net Daily — known as World Nut Daily for some very good reasons — are now spouting the dogma of antidepressants turning people into a homicidal frenzy, all so Big Pharma can profit from untested drugs while the government covers up the dark truth. Although that last part there could’ve been from the Sandy Hook Truther conspiracy. It’s kind of hard to keep all of the overlapping conspiracies straight sometimes, though it’s usually a safe bet that there’s some mention of the government covering up something for someone nefarious so the bigwigs of the New World Order can keep their sex slaves and appease their alien overlords.

Here’s the immediate problem with the psychoactive drug-induced mass murders theory. It fails the statistical significance test. Tens of millions of people have taken what’s known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, to treat mild to severe depression, and social disorders like anxiety and OCD. Virtually all the brand names given by Adams and his friends and fans are from the same family of SSRIs, and we can safely ask why just a few dozen examples of a violent crime out of a population of tens of millions of patients mean that SSRIs turn people into crazed gunmen. After all, if your study population is, say, 20 million and your sample time period goes back decades, having some mass murderers, serial killers, and short tempered violent criminals is pretty much statistically inevitable. Plus, what about the other tens of millions of patients who didn’t commit any crimes? How can you argue for a causative effect between SSRIs and murder when the murderers are so few and far between as to be a tiny blip on the radar? And that’s not to mention that SSRIs don’t have any known side effects that increase one’s aggression.

In fact, patients on SSRIs with the most extreme side effects and conditions are likely to commit suicide, not homicide. A quick reading of the list presented by Adams and company mentions a number of suicides quite prominently, as well as changing the definition of mass murder to "any violent crime in which more then one person died," further weakening their own case. Yes, a lot of gunmen commit suicide after their massacres, true. But the problem is that it’s very difficult to make any definitive causative link between SSRIs and suicide. Considering that patients with an extreme case of depression may commit suicide in spite of the drug rather than because of it, as well as the fact that for patients with a history of abuse and trauma SSRIs might not really do all that much more than a placebo, the connection is very murky. While we can say that gunmen in the headlines today were taking SSRIs and other similar medications, we can make a stronger case that the medications failed to do their job than Adams can that their medication pushed all, or nearly all of them, them towards violence, because the former explanation better fits with the fact that tens of millions of SSRI-using patients aren’t violent, and the relevant scientific work.

So let’s review. Mass murdering gunmen on psychoactive drugs are few and far between even when the criteria for mass murder are loosened to include any crime in which two or more have been killed. The link between SSRIs and violence has been studied and shown not to exist. And while patients on SSRIs with a severe diagnosis are more likely to commit suicide, we could very easily make a sound case that suicides are the result of the medication failing to do its job, not driving someone to a suicidal state, much less to killing themselves after leaving a trail of victims in his wake. But none of this bothers the conspiracy theorists. To them, everything has to be a secret plot by those behind the scenes because this the only way they can imagine the world. If they allowed for random chaos to interfere or simplt incompetence to bring down economies and lose wars, why, the world would be an unpredictable place they couldn’t pretend to navigate like sages in the know observing a chess match. They would have to be ordinary shmoes just trying to make sense of events that all too often simply don’t make sense in the big picture…

illuminati agent

When not crying and shilling for gold coins as some sort of super-currency which will be the only thing between certain death and survival in an economic collapse, Glenn Beck decided to write a book forecasting our dark future under the U.N.-led New World Order. Ok, not so much write a book as buy the rights to put his name on a conspiracy potboiler in which humanity has been all but decimated to protect the environment. People are imprisoned in featureless dwellings, kids are taken away form them in birth, they’re fed the equivalent of food pellets, and basically live a life that’s better described as an existence. It’s like peering into the brain of the black helicopter crowd, digging up every single nightmare they’ve ever had and making a crude Jackson Pollock painting out of them. Despite being treated as fiction, it’s very clearly supposed to be a warning about the impact of Agenda 21 when it’s implemented and used to rule the world.

Yes, here we go again with the hysterical fear of a toothless U.N. policy paper which, as noted a few times already, is just a list of suggestions that actually promotes free market capitalism and poses the issue of sustainability as an economic concern for healthy international trade. Yes, it calls for better human rights enforcement, women’s rights, and other liberal development ideas, but it’s mechanism for making sure its guidelines are implemented is to ask really nicely if some of the world’s nations would be so kind to try to implement them. This is why the Agenda 21 and black helicopter cloud insist on looking for moles in the government to stealthily force the U.S. to comply with the document. There’s no way that the U.N. can force anyone to follow it, no taxes it could levy, no military it could deploy, and no amount of money it can use as a bribe. But to find someone willing to take Agenda 21 as the blueprint for global governance is difficult at best.

If there are no consequences for not following along, you have to construct elaborate theories and layer upon layer upon layer of paranoia and backwards leaps of logic to create a cabal of sinister New World Order servants who want to destroy their nations from inside out and do the sorts of things that appear nowhere in the document that’s supposed to be their manifesto. But at the end of the day all they have is a long list of fears and allegations that have no basis in the real world and are backed up with out of context quotes, outright lies, and the ramblings of very popular talk show hosts who see a New World Order plot in everything from the mildew in their showers to a blizzard in January. Their fans, terrified of governments and chained by their own constantly fed and reinforced fears, have locked themselves in echo chambers in which they’re planning for life after the U.N.-led apocalypse, reciting the same mantras until you can hear the hoarseness in their voice through their comments on news sites.

Calls for urban planners to consider their cities’ environmental footprints as they design cities of the future — something already done by those asking for parks, playgrounds, and lakes that will welcome manageable wildlife — are taken as an Illuminati mandate for genocide and seizures of any private property that doesn’t fall within a secret spec sheet. Statements about the need for governments to root our corruption that hobbles economic development and hurts billions, very much the sort of stuff that most people often agree with as a good idea, become warnings to the world’s governments to follow the U.N.’s script or be dismantled by their secret agents. Really, when you take such a bristling attitude to toothless, vague, well-meaning suggestions and insist on twisting them into explicit threats by malevolent forces, you’re just looking for reasons to fear someone or to get angry, much like your counterparts on the far left. All so Glenn Beck can sell you some gold and Alex Jones can sell you another book or “survival kit…”

anons in the wild

Ars has a longform story on an unlikely cyber warrior, Christopher Doyon, aka Commander X. If you see him out in the wild and think that he’s merely a lanky 50-something panhandler smoking like a chimney in coffee shops while surfing the web, you could certainly be forgiven for making that mistake. Little does anyone know that he’s leading the worldwide fight against fascism and tyranny in Egypt and Syria after having battled persecution and injustice in the U.S. Now, this highly ranked general of the Anonymous armies is a fugitive from the long arm of the law trying to punish him for a DDoS attack against a local government office when it tried to tell people not to randomly sleep in local parks. Except when you read through Doyon’s story and the caveats carefully noted by writer Nate Anderson, you’ll discover that only the last part of all this is really true while the rest is basically a giant ego trip from a homeless conspiracy theorist with a laptop and a cause. Though exactly what that cause is gets very quickly lost in the histrionics…

Basically, the fight being fought by Doyon is against tyranny and oppression although what he’d call tyranny and oppression shows that he’s not familiar with a real authoritarian government and these verbs are usually used to say "’The Man’ isn’t letting me do whatever I want." Were he one of the many victims of authoritarianism, odds are that he would’ve been long sent to do a stretch of very hard time in a prison camp and the arrest he would’ve endured wouldn’t have been very gentle, proper, or brought to a court that released him on moderate bail while they reviewed his case. Even the reason why he fled was egotistic. After he coordinated a DDoS attack on Santa Cruz county, the judge didn’t want him to use social media to organize another one and while the case was being heard, ordered him to stay off Facebook and IRC. Imagining that this was a ploy to prevent the transformative work he was doing around the world over IM, he set off for Canada to seek political asylum. Because apparently, he thinks he’s important enough for that.

For more detail, I certainly recommend checking out the story itself, it’s well worth your time, but what really resonated in it with me was the textbook image of a conspiracy theorist looking for a conspiracy to fight. Doyon the 50+ year old drifter living off $15 a day used on coffee, smokes, and a fast food sandwich, perfectly matches with society’s definition of a bum. While many of his peers were studying, working, and trying to build families and careers, he was dropping acid and hanging out with anarchists who saw everyone who didn’t see eye to eye with them as enemies, sinister sleeper agents of the state, sort of like the Agents in The Matrix. He has nothing to show for his half century on this planet. But Commander X, his alter online ego, is the liberator of the oppressed, the digital Gandhi, King, and Eisenhower, all rolled into one. He commands legions and legions of followers and fierce digital artillery in the form of "ethical botnets" that can muscle giant companies like PayPal off the web. Commander X’s facade of a vagabond is a cover, much like that of a secret agent. Now, doesn’t that seem a lot better and more grandiose?

Too bad that this too is pretty much bullshit. Well known Anons have a real distaste for him as a so-called "leaderfag" who thinks he’s in charge of things he’s not, and whose chest-thumping is effectively worthless. So he talks to a small group of his fans and imagines that he’s fanning the flames of revolution against puppet governments of the New World Order. Like many conspiracy theorists on the far left, he’s ready to jump down anyone’s throat should he hear disagreement, rushing screaming at top speed at various strawmen about supporting The Plutocracy or busy stuffing words into critiques of his absolutist worldview, accusing his detractors of simply taking fascist oppression lying down or being blind to the government’s misdeeds. Whatever legitimate gripe he has, has long been obscured by hyperbole and reflexive categorization of anything an authority figure with which he disagrees does as either a war crime or enslavement of the 99%. I can understand why. He’s lived in cozy far left echo chambers in which being radical was simply not radical enough so nuance and debate are simply not part of his world anymore.

Finally, I can understand that there are plenty of people out there not happy with the way things are and wishing their lives had turned out differently. A lot of people feel the same way, like we got stuck on a treadmill and are going exactly nowhere. I know I’ve written plenty of posts which decry the fact that so much potentially transformative science and education is constantly being given the short end of the stick by visionless, bloviating empty suits we elect to govern us. A lot of these potential programs could make the 9 to 5 cubicle grind unnecessary in the long term as well as give us more options for what to do with our lives. So I get it, we’re not in our utopias yet and I’m sure my version of a perfect would would be someone’s mechanical nightmare. But the way to change the world isn’t to pretend to command hordes of cyber anarchists. It’s a tedious, long process that may involve waiting until the visionless retire or fall out of power. It takes time and sorting through competing ideas. DDoS-ing the shit out of stuff produces a speed bump on the way to something new and to pretend that it makes a real difference leads nowhere.